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The second outing from The Clove Club’s Isaac McHale, Johnny Smith and Daniel Willis proves that the Young Turk trio are more than one-hit wonders. Luca, they say, is a ‘Britalian’ restaurant – ie Italian cooking recast with British ingredients. It’s a clickbait-friendly concept, although the most striking feature of the place is its styling, which suggests 1950s Italian design adapted for current London restaurant trends: no tablecloths, fabulous lighting and a pasta-making room that transforms into a private dining space once the day’s work is done. Meals follow the classic four-course format, but go easy on breakout stars such as the Parmesan fries (actually gloriously gooey churros) if you want to make it to dessert. Pasta was the unequivocal highlight for us, from spaghettini laced with Morecambe Bay potted shrimps (blitzed into a buttery, bisque-like sauce) to classic pumpkin and chestnut ravioli, still with some stiff al dente bite. Elsewhere, we also liked softly crusted roast scallops sitting on an earthy splodge of Jerusalem artichoke purée, with ’nduja butter bleeding down the gutters of their shells, and a hefty rump of Hereford beef lined with a crisp sliver of pancetta – although a delicious plate of Hebridean lamb chops with rosemary breadcrumbs and mashed swede seemed more ‘gastropub’ than ‘gastronomia’. The only real let-down was service, which was standoffish, slow off the mark and dodgy in the wine department. Alternatively, nibble on sandwiches, salads and small plates in the bar, which is as beautifully designed as the rest of the restaurant.
Recently I had lunch with my colleagues at a new restaurant in Clerkenwell. &Luca& is located on St John Street (where the restaurant Portal was previously) and serves Italian-British cuisine. It was opened in 2016 by the head chef Isaac McHale and his partners Johnny Smith and Daniel Willis, who have also opened the michelin star restaurant Clove Club in Shoreditch.From the outside the restaurant looks very small, but is pretty spacious in reality as there are several rooms at the back which are not visible from the street.The first room has some tables for 4 people, a bar and a reception with an hostess....
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The Garden Room
Overlooking the open kitchen, The Garden Room is an indoor space which retains the exterior features of the Grade II listed building in the style of a southern Italian garden. The Garden Room is available for lunch or dinner bookings and can seat up to eight people.
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